Posts in category "Press Release"
Hazon Receives Grant to Oversee First Formal Research on Integration of Jewish Learning with Food, Environmental and Outdoor Education
SAN FRANCISCO – Recognizing the growing interest among individuals and families in experiences that integrate Jewish learning with learning about food, the environment, and the outdoors, a group of national and local funders have awarded a grant to Hazon to oversee new research in this area. Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and Rose Community Foundation, the research will explore how participation in immersive Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs influences individuals’ Jewish growth and leads to increased Jewish involvement.
“More and more people, particularly young adults, express their Jewish identity through passion for building sustainable and environmentally conscious Jewish communities,” says Nigel Savage of Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental organization. “We need to learn more about this phenomenon, better understand effective strategies, and determine long-term outcomes on participants. This is an exciting first step in deeply examining this relatively new and emerging space of Jewish learning and engagement.”
While organizations have invested time and resources to develop and sustain these immersive educational programs, to date there has been no formal evaluation or research conducted in this field. Nor has there been a review of existing research from outside the Jewish world to inform practitioners and funders.
Among other areas of interest, the research will examine such topics as the kinds of learning that occurs in these experiences that deepens Jewish identity; to what degree these experiences influence participants to become involved in their Jewish communities; and the relationship between local and national programs.
“We are excited to partner with other funders to determine how to invest the community’s attention and resources in this area,” says Al Levitt, President of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “There appears to be growing interest in Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs, and this research will help us better understand the learning that is taking place and identify what is working most effectively. The findings from this study will help inform future grantmaking decisions and could ultimately lead to more Jews being engaged in meaningful Jewish experiences.”
“Immersive experiences in the areas of Jewish food justice, farming and environmental advocacy help align individual values and interests with substantive Jewish principles and traditions,” says Charlene Seidle, Vice President and Executive Director of the Leichtag Foundation. “We look forward to learning together about the impact of these experiences in order to inform our funding and program model development.”
The grant announcement comes a week after Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center announced a merger of their organizations, both national leaders in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement in particular. The merged organization also will include the Teva Learning Alliance, which began in association with Isabella Freedman in the 1990s. The merger builds on the success of the existing Isabella Freedman campus – a spiritual home for many – and Hazon’s track record of re-connecting American Jews with the natural world. The new entity will have a wide range of programs, staff and volunteers in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and will be positioned to have a greater impact across the country.
“Merging the organizations certainly capitalizes on the strengths of each one and combines various separate areas of expertise into a streamlined operation,” Savage adds. “This in turn will foster a broader and more in depth study that ultimately will lead to more significant learnings for the field.”
Along with reaching out to alumni and former participants of programs run by Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Teva Learning Alliance, the study will reach out to alumni from a range of other related programs including Eden Village Camp, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, Kayam Farm, and the Jewish Farm School. Their program offerings include Jewish farming programs, environmental bike rides, conferences about food and sustainability, group camping trips structured around Jewish holiday celebrations, backpacking and outdoor adventure trips, and environmental educator training fellowships.
While the exact number of participants in these programs is unknown, field leaders estimate that in 2011, as many as 2,500 individuals participated in an immersive Jewish food, environmental or outdoor education program lasting four days or more.
“Programs that integrate socially conscious living with Jewish learning are proving to be a high-potential ingredient in the mix of experiences that enable young Jews to live as global citizens in accordance with Jewish values,” said Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which includes the Schusterman Family Foundation. “We believe this research will provide a framework for understanding how such experiences can help inspire a deeper connection to Jewish life.”
The research will build upon early planning efforts being led by the Green Hevra, a network of key Jewish environmental organizations of which Hazon is a participant. The Green Hevra received a $65,000 startup grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Morningstar Foundation earlier this year.
Sarene Shanus, Chair of the Jewish Community Development Task Force of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal at UJA-Federation of New York notes, “We are pleased to embark on this research partnership, as it builds on the foundation we’ve helped to lay with the Jewish Greening Fellowship, the Jewish Farm School, and Eden Village camp as touchpoints for Jewish community and environmentalism.”
“The Colorado Jewish community is seeing a sudden burgeoning of individuals and new organizations interested in being part of the Jewish Food Movement,” says Lisa Farber Miller, Senior Program Officer of Rose Community Foundation. “Established Jewish institutions are realizing the importance of embracing the values of the sustainable food and environmental movements. Hazon provides pertinent educational resources, links and assists grassroots groups like the Jewish chicken coops in Denver and Boulder, and helps organizations adopt new ways of engaging their users to learn about food and the environment. The national research study, which includes a case study highlighting Denver/Boulder Hazon work, will help us better understand how we can continue to advance this movement.”
For Hazon, the grant is an opportunity to further the organization’s goals of offering compelling experiences, providing thought leadership, and supporting the work of the individuals and organizations that share its vision for healthier and more sustainable independent communities in the Jewish world and beyond. The research will be conducted by an outside firm and managed by Hazon with oversight from an advisory team that includes both funders and practitioners.
“There is now a strong and expanding group of individuals and organizations that seek to create these learning opportunities,” says Savage. “The support from funders to conduct this research will ultimately help all organizations that offer Jewish food, environmental and outdoor education programs.”
Monday December 3rd 2012 / 19th Kislev 5773
Sometimes our lives cross and crisscross in unexpected ways.
Things that one thinks are incredibly significant prove minor; and minor or accidental decisions can change one’s life.
So it was for me in the summer of 1998. That was when, for the first time, I visited Isabella Freedman; spent time at Elat Chayim (then in Accord, NY); and met people like Adam Berman (who went on to direct Isabella Freedman and to found Adamah), Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Nili Simhai (currently the director of Teva) and Rabbi Dr Arthur Waskow.
Not more than a few moments’ thought went into the serendipitous construction of that summer. But encountering those people and institutions led me to found Hazon, late the following year. And today, things go full circle: we’re announcing that Hazon is merging with Isabella Freedman (which includes Elat Chayyim, following a merger a few years ago). The Teva Learning Alliance, until now a part of Surprise Lake Camp, is also going to be part of the new Hazon. (Click here to read the official press release.)
Why did we do this, and what will change?
At one level (happily) it involves no change at all. The values and vision that underpin Hazon are strongly shared by Isabella Freedman, and vice versa:
- We both believe that immersive multi-day experiences (retreats, bike rides, conferences) play a unique and vital role in reframing Jewish tradition, in transforming people’s live, and in weaving a stronger and more inspirational Jewish community. Other than for kids (summer camp) and young adults (birthright) the American Jewish community has under-invested in such retreats, and we’d gradually like to change this in the future.
- We’re both significantly engaged with leadership development. How do we re-frame what Jewishness is or could be? How do we tease out the places where Jewish tradition’s understanding of how we relate to the natural world critiques some of what today we assume is “normal?” How do we connect and network young leaders so that they can support and encourage each other for a lifetime to come? This area includes Hazon’s work in curriculum development, the support we provide to the growth of Jewish CSAs, the platform we’ve created for the Jewish Food Movement overall, and the determined work we’re already doing in preparing for the next Shmita year in 5775 (September 2014). For Freedman this includes their Jewish Greening Fellowship, spurring institutional transformation through leadership development; and it especially includes the Adamah and Teva programs, whose alumni fuel vibrant Jewish life of all sorts across the country;
- We both have a strong commitment not just to what we do but to how we do it. Both organizations care passionately about inclusive community. We’re both explicit in seeking gender equality, and in running as many extra miles as we need in order to be organizations in which someone who might be in a minority in the room – for having a different sexuality, or age, or religious background – is made to feel especially welcome. Both organizations engage the front edge of Jewish religious development (new ideas, new liturgy, new forms of practice) and seek to make the most observant and traditional members of our communities feel at home. (When Hazon organizes a retreat or a ride somewhere other than at Freedman, we send in staff and volunteers in advance to build an eruv – a symbolic domain beyond which an observant Jew doesn’t carry on Shabbat. We do this even though only a minority of our participants observe the rules of eruvim. And – yes – we’re pretty happy that Freedman already has its own eruv.)
And it’s not just that our values are shared, strongly held, and will not change. It’s also important to say: this is not one of those mergers where you put two organizations together, fire a bunch of people, and thus save money. David Weisberg and I (who will together run the new postmerger Hazon) think that both organizations are understaffed. Over time we need to increase headcount, not reduce it.
So if many things will not change because of the merger, why are we doing it? The simplest answer is: More impact.
In the last two or three years it has become clear that after 15 years of investment in “start-ups” in the Jewish community, we now need to devote different sorts of resources to enable a smaller number of organizations to really go to scale. Doing this is vital if we’re serious about transforming American Jewish life (let alone enabling the Jewish community, as a community, to have any impact on some of the greatest issues of our time, such as developing sustainable food systems, or seeking to prevent even worse climate-related destruction for generations to come).
Becoming a larger single organization – with a wide variety of programs, and revenue-streams, but with shared educational resources, and a single fundraising department, communications department, finance team, website, database etc – will enable us internally to be more specialized and to devote more resources to particular tasks. Externally it will enable us to orient ourselves more determinedly around the needs of others– to offer to individuals and to institutions a wide range of resources from a single website and a single staff-team.
This is important because the growth of the Jewish Food Movement, of Jewish outdoor education, and of Jewish environmental education in the last 10 years is incredibly profound – and it’s still incredibly under-resourced. Under the radar of American Jewish life, – and despite a community that is in overall terms trending flat to trending downwards, by a variety of metrics – remarkable things are happening. The Adamahniks and Tevaniks are fanning out into the rest-of-their lives: becoming rabbis, educators, farmers, leaders of all sorts. Many of them, along the way, are founding or leading their own institutions: Becca Weaver and Leora Mallach at Ganei Beantown (Boston); Jakir and Netsitsa Manela at Pearlstone (Baltimore); Risa Alyson Cooper at Shoresh in Toronto; Vivi & Yoni Stadlin at Eden Village in Putnam Valley, NY; in the Chicago area, the Margulies family at Pushing the Envelope Farm, and Jill Zenoff at the Gan Project; Zelig Golden and Julie Wolk at Wilderness Torah in the Bay area. Plus people like David Fox at Amir, in San Francisco, and Robert Nevel in Chicago at KAM Isaiah.
We are no longer an alternative to organized Jewish life; for a growing number of people, we are Jewish life. We’re weaving the Jewish community of tomorrow, and it’s happening today. The kids who go to camp at Eden Village or Ramah Outdoors, who go with their school to Teva, who go on to do a trip with Jewish Farm School, who teach at Teva, who live at Adamah or Urban Adamah – these are people who take for granted that there is no distinction – and should be no distinction – between learning and growing Jewishly, between celebrating our ancient tradition, and between being good citizens of our small fragile planet.
In our very first ride, in the summer of 2000, Hazon set out not only to touch people’s lives directly, but actively to support other great people and organizations. That summer our riders raised $32,000 in sponsorship, and WE gave away 100% of what we raised. (100% because I believed that a tooth-fairy would support Hazon’s work indefinitely in the future; that is definitionally not a sustainable business model.) Since then the percent that we have given away has steadily reduced – but the dollar-amount we’ve given away, and the other ways that we support people and organizations, has steadily grown.
In the next ten years, we want this merger not so much to fuel our own growth as to help drive positive change across the American Jewish community. That’s what this merger is most about. Here’s some of what we need:
- High-quality Jewish food education in every day-school, every Hebrew school and every synagogue – so that we’re connecting a 2,000-year old history of keeping kosher and of Jewish food traditions, with the deepest possible understanding of where our food comes from, and what it is to eat healthily as an individual, as a community and as a society;
- High-quality Jewish retreat centers – at Isabella Freedman and around the country – so that far greater numbers of people can experience a taste of living in Jewish space and time;
- New resources for rabbis and educators, to support them in teaching and leading in a way that’s grounded and inspiring;
- New ways to take Jewish people outdoors – not just for our kids, and not just at summer camps. That’s what Hazon’s bike rides are about, that’s what Teva’s Yitziah program is about, that’s what Wilderness Torah has done at its retreats. This in turn needs more training, more resources and more coordination;
- New ways to connect to Israel. Through our rides, through our Israel Sustainable Food Tour, through Siach, we’ve seen that food and environment are profound ways to connect to Israeli Jews, (not to mention new ways to start to build relationships with Israeli Palestinians, with Palestinians and Jordanians and other neighbors in the region). We’d like to play a role in helping to strengthen and renew the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel;
- New ways to bring Jewish tradition to life. An institution like Elat Chayyim is, in a sense, an R&D unit for the whole Jewish community. What the Jewish Renewal movement pioneered – in relation to the status of women, to sexuality, to the language of prayer, to silence, meditation, yoga, the encounter with Buddhism, with Sufism, with Hinduism, with the ecstatic prayer and movement of born-again Christians: these things are not for all Jewish people, and they don’t need to be. But those of us – including me – who come from somewhat more traditional backgrounds, or who practice Jewishly in more traditional ways, shouldn’t fail to recognize how influential – and how fundamentally good – that R&D work has been, often without subsequent accreditation.
There’s more to be said, but I hope you get the point. Overall: I’m incredibly proud of what together we’ve accomplished in the 13 years since the Nash family first gave me the money to found Hazon. But I also note, overall, the challenge of asset allocation in American Jewish life. The installed capital base of the American Jewish community – all the synagogues, day schools, camps – is probably worth more than $10 billion. The total value of family foundations established by Jewish families is almost certainly in excess of $50 billion. Yet the total revenues of all the Jewish green organizations – broadly defined – is barely $10 million. That’s probably up 10-fold in a dozen years, but it’s still less than a fraction of one percent of the annual revenues of American Jewish life. Given the vitality of food, the environment and the outdoors as profound gateways to Jewish life and to social change, that just doesn’t make sense – and we’d like to help change that in the coming years.
In the coming year we’ll work hard, internally and externally, to build the new enlarged Hazon. We invite your help and your involvement in multiple ways. These organizations and programs have grown because of the passion and commitment of our staff, our board members, our volunteers, our participants and our funders. In the coming year we’ll be reaching out in new ways to ask questions and to invite feedback and involvement going forwards.
I want to end by noting that this is the time of year-end appeals. A growing number of people are proud to be Hazon stakeholders. Lots of us – me included – are members of shuls that we don’t necessarily go to each week, or we write checks to organizations that we don’t necessarily interact with every week or every month. But we pay dues because, even if we’re not there, the shul or the organization is; and we want it to be there, and to do what it does. So whether you’ve been recently to one of our Rides, or you’re coming to our Food Conference next week, or this year you were part of a Hazon CSA, or a member of your family was touched by work that we did – even if one of these things isn’t true for you, we hope that you’ll send a year-end check –or, better yet, become a monthly sustainer – because we stand for things that I know so many of you believe in.
From a standing start 13 years ago we’ve grown incredibly. We reach people who are affiliated and unaffiliated; orthodox and Reform; we work with a wide range of institutions, across the country. We’re renewing Jewish life in powerful ways, and we’re taking practical steps towards creating a better world for all. Please become a Hazon stakeholder – please give us a year-end gift, or make a commitment to become a monthly sustainer. Click here to give a donation.
Thanks – and wishing you a happy Chanukah and a healthy and peaceful new year,
Executive Director, Hazon
PS. I’m thrilled to announce that, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous supporter, if you’ve never supported Hazon before, your gift will be matched up to a total of $5,000.
Hazon is hosting the Rocky Mountain Jewish Food Summit – a local day of learning, celebration, eating, community-building and hands-on doing at the intersection of food, sustainability and Jewish life.
This all-day event on Sunday, April 29 at the University of Colorado at Boulder will bring new people in to Jewish life, strengthen and support existing Jewish institutions and leaders, and enable the Jewish community to contribute to creating healthier and more sustainable local communities. (more…)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
170 Jewish Social Justice Leaders to Meet with Obama Administration
Washington, D.C.; July 27, 2011â€”On Friday, July 29th, 170 representatives of organizations that are part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable (JSJRT) will travel to the White House for a policy briefing to exchange ideas on housing, healthcare, food justice and education. The JSJRT is a group of 21 nonprofit organizations promoting economic and social justice as a core tenet of Jewish life.
“Many people think the Jewish community has only one message to bring to Washington and it’s about Israel,” said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, director of the Jewish Life and Values Program of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which funds the JSJRT. “In reality, the Jewish community is deeply involved in issues of social justice here and around the globe. We are so pleased to have been invited to discuss these issues with the White House staff as we work to create a more just world.”
Some participants are eager to tell White House officials about the public housing tenants in Chicago who teamed up with local organizations to renovate hundreds of uninhabitable apartments for low-income residents. Others want the Administration to hear how a Jewish community member with life-threatening brain cancer struggled to get adequate health insurance. When she had to take a leave of absence from her job, she was denied workers’ compensation because her cancer was a pre-existing condition. A third representative will share a story about a family of five that has to rely on an Oklahoma food bank to eat.
“The fact that 170 Jews are coming to the White House to talk about housing, healthcare, education and food justice shows that these issues are priorities for millions of American Jews,” said Simon Greer, President and CEO of Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice. “The number of Jews and Jewish organizations engaged in social and economic justice work has grown exponentially over the past two decades. The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is a manifestation of that growth and of the urgent need we see to promote opportunity and secure basic rights for all Americans.”
Grounded in a rabbinic tradition to pursue justice, American Jews have a rich history of civic engagement and involvement in socio-political movements, including the labor movement, civil rights movement and the women’s movement, along with many other human rights struggles. Today’s American Jewish community is furthering this legacy by spurring economic development, alleviating hunger, protecting workers’ rights, preventing homelessness, and strengthening social justice leadership across lines of race, class, and faith.
Jane Ramsey, director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, explained, “The American Jewish community brings a powerful voice to issues affecting the most vulnerable people in our society. The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is a manifestation of a strong and growing progressive movement reflective of our Jewish prophetic values.”
“It is important that a variety of faith-based groups have their voices heard by the Obama Administration,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly. “Faith-based groups in this country represent a spectrum of belief, ideology and religious practice.”
“Currently, the debate in Washington is focused almost exclusively on reducing the size of government, even as unemployment remains high, and more and more families need to rely on the social safety net,” said Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women. “As Jewish social justice activists, we are coming to Washington to express our belief that the ultimate goal in any government policy decisionâ€”be it the budget or any other issueâ€”must be informed by a commitment to social justice and a more equitable distribution of public funds.”
“I am inspired by our collective commitment to advance a social justice agenda on the national and global stage,” said Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service. “We must not underestimate the power of letting our government know that global food justice, equitable healthcare, education reform, and affordable housing are authentic expressions of Jewish values. They are issues that Jewish leaders care about deeply and will work on intensively.”
The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable comprises:
AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Jewish Community Action
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Jewish Organizing Initiative/Center for Jewish Organizing
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Jewish World Watch
Jews United for Justice
National Council of Jewish Women
New Israel Fund
PANIM Institute of BBYO
Progressive Jewish Alliance &
Jewish Funds for Justice
Repair the World
Union for Reform Judaism/Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism/Just Congregations
Contact: Jake Wilkenfeld-Mongillo
(212) 644-2332 x319